Week 2 of the Armada Games demonstrated how absolutely insane and how swiftly dangerous EDH games can be.
I debated back and forth all week on whether to play my metagamed-for-the-league/environment Darigaaz deck or the “original” EDH deck, Phelddagrif. I got some feedback from the official forums and some of the regulars in the #edh channel on which to play, and opinions were split. Since they’re radically different decks, Darigaaz being aggressive and creature-based, the hippo being more controlling, I decided to take them both with me and gauge my mood just before we started.
I got there and hung out chatting with Armada owners Aaron and Michael Fortino. Aaron showed me more of the insane card mods that his girlfriend Kristy is doing. She’s banging out a few dozen a week in her spare time, and I decided to give her a full set (4 each) of the original dual lands to do something with. I told her to take her time with them, so it’ll no doubt be a few weeks. I’ll get shots of them once she’s done.
After chats and a little pizza from the remarkably-not-terrible pizza joint next to the shop, I was ready to play. My mood definitely suggested the more aggressive deck, so I grabbed the dragon (meaning that next time I play in the league, in about three weeks, I’ll definitely play Phelddagrif). A great deal happened in a very short time – but first, here’s the list:
Big Game Hunter
Fumiko the Lowblood
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Oracle of Mul Daya
Visara, the Dreadful
Crucible of Worlds
Talisman of Impulse
Fires of Yavimaya
Leyline of the Void
Survival of the Fittest
SORCERIES and INSTANTS (13)
Decree of Pain
Gift of the Gargantuan
Red Elemental Blast
City of Brass
Miren, the Moaning Well
Skargg, the Rage Pits
Temple of the False God
Tower of the Magistrate
I further updated the deck with Zendikar to go for a Landfall sub-theme, adding Crucible of Worlds just to see how good it might be. On the surface, it seems obvious, but it’s been my experience that sometimes things that look good on the surface prove to be less good in practice. I don’t plan any nasty “recur Wasteland ad infinitum” shenanigans, although I’m happy to strip stuff like Tolarian Academy, Academy Ruins, Volrath’s Stronghold, and Gaea’s Cradle – the things that are combo-enabling and can be really broken (there are probably a few others that scream “waste me” to you – Thawing Glaciers comes to mind). The only time I’d Waste something other than one of these is when there’s a significant strategic advantage to doing so.
I also vow to play Obliterate only as a defensive mechanism. First, there’s a league point penalty to playing it. Second, it’s not that much fun. I’m all about creating crazy situations, and Obliterate generally just ends games – but it drags them out first. Sure, it might be worth the trade-off of taking the minus two to get three or four kills, but I’d rather things be a little more interactive. Still, people play insane cards, and sometimes get an upper hand, so it’s good to have a little defense. It’s the nature of the format. You see that this is a very offense-minded deck, but I learned a long time ago to not put all my eggs in one basket.
With school having started, our turnouts for Thursday night have dropped a bit. We have nine tonight, so we’re a table of four and one of five. I’m seated with Brian (the same Brian as last time), playing Rafiq, Patrick with Stonebrow (a choice I have to respect), and Kyle with Azami. Azami is a deck that can get out of hand pretty quickly, so I know we have to keep an eye on him. I don’t have to tell the other two that, as they mention it right out of the gate.
We roll two d10, and Brian sets the tone by rolling double 0s. We mulligan and everyone keeps. The first plane is Fields of Summer.
Brian: Vivid Meadow
Patrick: Vivid Grove. Rolls and gets chaos. Life total to 50.
Me: My hand isn’t great, but it has three lands and a Sol Ring, so I’ve kept. Two of them are EBT (Enters The Battlefield Tapped) lands, but the only deck I’m worried about really coming out of the gates too quickly is Brian’s Rafiq. With some acceleration, he can kill you quickly. I play Barren Moor, thinking that I’ll bounce and cycle it later in the game.
Kyle: Island, also rolls chaos, going to 50.
Brian: Plains, Talisman of Progress (42). There’s his quick start. Rolls and we planeswalk to Goldmeadow. It’s Goat time!
Patrick: Land, get three goats. Rolls chaos, gets fourth goat.
Me: Identical start as Patrick. I drop Sol Ring and roll twice more and get nothing. Still, four goats is okay.
Kyle: Same run into four goats, although it takes him an extra roll to get there.
Brian: Land, three goats. Takes a pain (41) to play Cold-Eyed Selkie.
Patrick: Forest, 3 goats. Rolls chaos and gets eighth goat. Casts Groundbreaker, who blocks with 4 goats (48).
Me: Another reason I kept my opening hand was the Oracle of Mul Daya that I now cast. I get a land off the top and then play Gruul Turf, bouncing Barren Moor. I roll, and while shaking the die, joke that it would be funny if we ended up on Coat of Arms Plane. I roll, and we actually head off to Krosa, which isn’t quite as good, but goats are bigger now.
Kyle: Rolls twice, getting chaos the second time, so he gets 4U in his pool. He casts Gauntlet of Power, naming Blue. He rolls again, and planeswalks to Celestine Reef. Looks like all those goats will be staying home for a while.
Brian: Harrows away his Vivid Meadow and casts a Signet. Attacks Kyle with the Islandwalking Selkie (46). Draws 2 and plays Birds of Paradise.
Patrick: Keeper of Progenitus. Now we’re talking.
Me: Play a Swamp as my Oracle land. Cycle Barren Moor, cast Crucible of Worlds. Play the Barren Moor again. I keep trying to play the top card off my library, and I have to remind myself that Oracle of Mul Daya isn’t Future Sight. Cast Survival of the Fittest and Bloodchief Ascension. Thanks to Patrick for the extra mana! I roll and we walk to Isle of Vesuva. I predict ridiculousness.
Kyle: Strip Mine, Sol Ring, and a whiff on rolling away. Mentions Generals aren’t so good any more. This will become a point of humor in a bit.
Brian: Troll Ascetic, get a copy. Scute Mob, get a copy. Kyle Rewinds that, getting Brian a point for That Was Rude. Brian then casts Summoning Trap! He gets two copies of Magus of the Future. He reveals Enlisted Wurm, which he casts. He Cascades into Battlegrace Angel, which Kyle decides he needs to counter with Sage’s Dousing.
Patrick: Lurking Predators. Attacks me with Keeper; I chump with a goat.
Me: Asleep at the wheel, I cast Ob Nixilis. Patrick gets two Taurean Maulers off his Predators. I facepalm, realizing Ob is Legendary. I pitch Burning-Tree Shaman to Survival, getting Seedborn Muse. I cast Greater Good. At this point, Seedborn might make me a target for all the fat running around. Without big dudes of my own, no one cares about Greater Good.
Kyle: Casts Azami, which gets big laughs from Patrick and Brian, especially after I had just done the same stupid thing. Patrick whiff off the Predators. Kyle then casts one and gets two Waterspout Weavers.
Brian: Temple of the False God, Mana Vault, and Noble Hierarch (x2). He casts Ardent Plea, and Cascades into a Sigil that he chooses to not play. He resolves Rafiq gets (Alara) Block Party. He rolls three times, the third time walking to Velis Vel!!! Giant goats!!! Attacks Kyle with the Selkie for 14 (32), drawing two hands worth of cards. Drops Whispersilk Cloak. Now it’s ugly.
Patrick: Casts Stonebrow and Ball Lightning. Attack Brian with two giant Maulers and the 11/5 Ball Lightning. Maulers get blocked by goats and he takes the 11 (30). Here’s where I see many inexperienced players would block the trampler. In most cases, the few points of damage you save isn’t worth not having the creature(s). I think Brian definitely makes the right call in not throwing guys under the bus just to save some damage. We then realize that Patrick gets a point for Blackjack.
Me: Kyle muses out loud that I can just kill him since there are 17 goats in play. By doing so, the Bloodchief Ascension will get a third counter at end of turn. I think about doing the friendly thing by not taking him out, but it looks to me as though this game isn’t going to last very long anyway. I decide to take the points now, so I swing into him for the kill. Things are kind of desperate at this point. I’m staring down giant creatures from both Brian and Patrick, so I need to dig for answers. I sacrifice a goat, drawing 16 cards. Of the cards I draw, I see a bunch of dudes, no Reliquary Tower, and Obliterate. As I mentioned above, Obliterate is really a bad strategic choice for me, and in this case a little extra, since if I play it, I’ll be giving both Patrick and Brian points for First Blood. It’s a 3 point swing if I doâ€”but I’m dead if I don’t. If Bloodchief Ascension already had three counters on it, it might be worth it, because I could kill Brian right away, but that’s OBE anyway. I don’t think I have answers other than Living Death (which will at least get rid of the creatures). After thinking a while longer than I should (I can tell they’re getting antsy), I sac another goat and draw more cards. This group has the answer I had forgotten: Decree of Pain. I cast it and draw 28 more cards – none of which is Reliquary Tower. I play Kazandu Refuge (41) and pass, dumping all the creatures in my hand into the yard – and keeping the Living Death and Goblin Bombardment. I cross my fingers for no Tormod’s Crypt or Relic of Progenitus.
Brian: Mana Vault to 29. Re-casts Rafiq and Steel of the Godhead. Equips it up with Whispersilk.
Patrick: Tries to roll off, and gets nothing, then casts Thornling. He has nothing else, and unless Brian has a 0 cost counterspell, I’m pretty sure this one is over.
Me: Living Death, bringing back into play 32 of my 36 creatures. Multiple things trigger: Singe-Mind Ogre, Bogardan Hellkite, Big Game Hunter, Anathemancer, Eternal Witness, etc., and mayhem ensues. I sacrifice 13 creatures to Bombardment to kill Brian, then the other 19 Patrick’s dome and recast the Living Death, which I had regrown with the Witness ,to finish him off. There is much hooting and hollering and repeating the word “insanity” from the table. Brian starts totaling up the points for me, pointing out that I can use Skargg, the Rage Pits, to buff up one of my green guys to a 3 power, giving me Straight Flush. I get that, a Straight, and a Flush (with 5 red/green guys!) using 15 different creatures. I also end up with I’m Cool Too, Blackjack, Block Party, Cramped Quarters (most of my deck is on the battlefield), and the three kills and last man standing for a total of 20 points.
The perfect storm of the Goat Plane, followed by the Coat of Arms Plane, the Keeper to multiply a lot of my mana, the Oracle to play extra lands, and the Greater Good led to more cards than I knew what to do with and a kill that felt WAY too combo-ish for my tastes. I even ask Aaron if I can switch decks for game 2. He says yes, but it seems unfair to the rest of the guys to be able to change mid-stream. The giant, turn 7 kill, which I certainly didn’t see coming until Velis Vel dropped, wasn’t part of the plan, but I took it when it was there staring me in the face. This was the insanity. The quick danger came in Game 2.
I’m seated with Brian, who had the next highest total at our table, Ryan with his new Thraximundar deck, and Mark, he of the long game last week, with his Sen Triplets deck. Mark wins the roll and we get to it. Again, no one mulligans. The first plane is Llanowar. Seems pretty useless as the first plane.
Mark: Island, Suspend Ancestral Visions
Me: I’ve kept a five-land hand. They tend to work out in this format. I Expanse into a Mountain.
Brian: Expanses into a Forest.
Ryan: Salt Marsh
Me: Bayou, Suspend Greater Gargadon, which is why I got the Mountain.
Brian: Vivid land, and rolls chaos, which is basically a whiff.
Ryan: Savage Land, walks to Skybreen. I will once again several times try to play the card of f the top.
Mark: Plains, rolls chaos, hits Ryan (33). There seems to be some animosity from them being the last two standing at the previous table.
Me: Verdant Catacombs, crack it for Badlands (39).
Brian: Talisman, rolls twice, whiffing.
Ryan: Walks to Fields of Summer. Mountain, Phyrexian Reclamation (42).
Mark: Plains, rolls unsuccessfully twice.
Me: Tower of the Magistrate, Wilderness Elemental (41), who is already pretty big.
Ryan: Walks to Dark Barony.
Mark: Ancestral goes off, costing him a life (39). Swamp, Magus of the Moat, which everyone but Brian likes. Tries to roll off but can’t, and discards two lands (37).
Me: Gargadon to 7. Mosswort Bridge, under which I put Bituminous Blast. Go nowhere with my free roll.
Brian: Whispersilk Cloak, which Ryan Remands, dropping him to 39.
Ryan: Casts Liliana Vess and Tutors with it.
Mark: Rolls chaos. I discard Genesis (38), Brian Sigil of Distinction (34), and Ryan Blood Tyrant. Casts Galepowder Mage, a creature I really like.
Me: Gargadon to 6, Darksteel Citadel and bring out Darigaaz, since I’ll need flyers to attack.
Bryan: Re-casts Whispersilk Cloak and Equips Rafiq. I notice he’s missed a couple of land drops, and I’ve noticed the same in previous games. He confesses that he’s only playing 33 land (plus some artifact mana), and that he takes advantage of the fact that he a has quite a few low-cost things in his deck – he tells me that only two cards cost more than 6. He’s laser-focused on getting Rafiq into play and swinging with him, especially cloaked up. This seems like a viable strategy insomuch as it will likely give him an early kill, but it seems to me like he rarely has any later game. When other people start doing giant things, he still has his (admittedly dangerous) smaller guys.
Ryan: Liliana Tutors again. Tidings (37). Rolls chaos. I discard Miren (37), Mark Hurkyl’s Recall (36), and Brian Wall of Reverence (33). Rolls again and gets nothing.
Mark: Demonic Tutor, Bounceland, and walks to Sea of Sand.
Me: Gargadon to 5. Reveal Temple of the False God (30). Attack Ryan with Darigaaz (33). Pay for his ability, naming Blue. We see Arcanis, Spelljack, Rhystic Study, Coalition Relic, Bit Blast, Ob Nixilis, and a Signet (30).
Brian: Reveals Luminarch Ascension (30). Rolls and can’t get away.
Ryan: Reveals Loxodon Warhammer (27). Casts Coalition Relic and Rhystic Study. Uses Liliana to make Brian discard Enlisted Wurm.
Mark: Reveals a land (39). Casts Angel of Despair, killing Luminarch Ascension. Attacks Liliana with the Galepowder Mage, sliding out the Angel. Walks to Immersturm. At end of turn, there is so much discussion about what he should blow up (he decides that it’ll be Rhystic Study, which should have probably been the first choice, and then hit the Whispersilk Cloak on the come-back, then Ascension next time, but it’s his game to play) that he forgets the Pandemonium. After that resolves, I activate Mosswort Bridge, killing Galepowder (earning Mark First Blood) with the Bit Blast, Cascading into Solemn Simulacrum (and dealing 2 to Markâ€”37). We also realize that Mark has (Ravnica) Block Party.
Me: Gargadon to 4. Puppeteer Clique, targeting Ryan (24) and Blood Tyrant, which I use to kill Angel of Despair (getting me I’m Cool Too). That and the Galepowder Mage are just too good together. Of course, Blood Tyrant has to attack its owner, so I swing his way. At end of turn, Brian Psionic Blasts Magus of the Moat, so Rafiq can now attack.
Brian: Drops Finest Hour and says “I guess I just win.” While that’s not anywhere near accurate (not to mention a little smug), he can kill one of us with General damage, and chooses me. The crazy turn of the previous game comes back to haunt me; he says “I couldn’t let you do that again.” Obviously, I was nowhere near able to do that in the next few turns, but I appreciate deserving being the first one out after such bombast in the first game. I’m a big believer in social control from within the society, and this was a perfect example. I’d have preferred to not be on the receiving end, but I did pile up 20 points in the first game, so I understand. I think it would have been strategically a better move (at least I light of the league) to kill Mark this turn and me the next, since Mark had already piled up some points in this game.
Under normal circumstances, I would have stayed around and recorded the rest of the match, but it was still relatively early, so I chose instead to head home, have a little bourbon, and jump into the hot tub with my wife. I hope everyone understands the choice.
I call back to the shop and find out that Ryan had killed Rafiq on the next turn by casting and attacking with Thraximundar and that the game went a good long while, going to time. In the end, Ryan and Brian ended up with 5 points each, splitting first and second.
Again, there we see two perfect examples at the hilarity and savagery that can be EDH, especially with Planechase. I’ll be in Austin for the Pro Tour this week, and back home with a houseload of judges leading up to Grand Prix: Tampa the week following. If you’re at either event, please drop by and say hello, and if you can, jump into a game with us. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be bringing you both reports of Pro Tour and Grand Prix judges slinging the hundred card decks, as well as some EDH Deckbuilding Theory. Until then, keep Embracing the Chaos!